After our second sortie out to the islands, we had a productive week starting Monday the 4th October 2021. Matt brought our water maker pump unit back with new seals, new everything, connected it to the reverse osmosis units and ran the system. It was as good as new, producing sweet tasting fresh water. The parts for the stereo unit arrived and I installed it; Annie polished all the stainless steel on the boat (a huge job) and I unblocked a toilet pipe and zapped both toilets with strong acid to dissolve the calcium and lime buildup in the pipes.
Annie, Tanya, Dirk & Peter.
We rewarded ourselves with the two for one pizza specials at Sorrento’s with Peter, Tanya, John and Annie 2 on Wednesday late arvo. Annie did a final load of washing at the laundromat while I polished and Dubbined the steering wheels, before we did a last shop at Woolies and the BWS bottle shop.
Whitsunday map 3 – heading south now.
On Saturday 9 October, after almost six weeks in and out of Airlie Beach, waiting for the northerly winds to kick in, we sailed 13 nm through the Unsafe Passage to South Molle Island and anchored in Bauer Bay. We were met by the derelict resort and overgrown golf course, which fell prey to cyclone Debbie five years ago. In 2005, when we first chartered a yacht in the islands, we enjoyed the Thursday evening seafood buffet with our girls at this resort.
“Unsafe Passage” between North and South Molle Islands.
New wharf and floating pontoon.
Since then we have visited the island and resort four times, to do the scenic walk up to Spionkop. The name is English for Spioenkop (Spy hill) near Ladysmith in South Africa, where the invading British forces, including Australians, fought against the Boere (farmers) in the Anglo-Boer war of 1899 – 1902. Sir Redvers Buller’s 20,000 men and 36 field guns were defeated by Louis Botha’s 8,000 men and 4 field guns. (Wikipedia)
The remains of the resort buildings.
The overgrown golf course.
Start of the walk – I’m getting quite good at posing with Park signs.
The walk was just as beautiful on this our fifth walk, but the resort and golf course was unrecognisable. The contract for the construction of a new wharf and pontoon had been finalised before the cyclone, so it was built anyway and stands there in all its brand new splendour. Of the quaint cottages and lush gardens there is no sign and only the restaurant’s steel structure remain.
On the way up, we walk through thousands of colourful butterflies – I thought the camera may show them – no?
The view south, on the way up.
This very hard blue flint was traded by the Ngaro people as spear and arrow points, with the other islands.
These Black Boy grass trees only grow 2 cm/year and get up to 450 years old.
The bane of sailor’s lives, a pack of Jet Skis roaring into Bauer Bay.
The view towards Hamilton Island.
Bauer Bay – the white dot at the end of the wharf is Esprit. Jet Skis leaving!
Down again, a sad sight – resort bungalows used to be here.
The new wharf on our way back to our dinghy at the end of the wharf.
Spionkop in the background.
Esprit looking pretty in Bauer Bay.
After lunch, we sailed across the passage to Sawmill Bay for a quiet BBQ. The following morning we left early and were able to take advantage of the South flowing rising tide for a fast 15 nm sail past Dent Island to Coconut Bay on the western side of Lindeman Island. Lindeman is the first of the southern group of Whitsunday Islands that extend down to Keswick and St Bees Islands, north-east of Mackay on the mainland.
Coconut Bay – Lindeman Island.
Whitsunday Southern Group. Click on the maps for a better view.
There are numerous walks on Lindeman, so early the next morning we did the walk from the derelict Club Med along the airstrip up to Mt Oldfield. The Club Med looks worse for wear after being hit by cyclone Yasi ten years ago and then by cyclone Debbie five years ago. Stuart the caretaker, told us that the Chinese company that bought the resort, is planning to demolish it and rebuild.
The former Club Med looking worse for wear.
It’s a long walk along the airstrip before going up to Mount Oldfield.
Danger – UFO coming in to land.
Mt Oldfield – looking towards Pentecost Island.
Annie on top of Mt Oldfield.
After lunch, we motor sailed the 5 nm south to Shaw Island and anchored in the lee, in Billbob Bay, named after the two surveyors of Shaw Island.
Billbob Bay – Shaw Island.
Our neighbour in Billbob Bay – different strokes for different folks.
To the south of Shaw Island, is the Sir James Smith group of islands. Most of the islands have Smith in their names: Ladysmith, Silversmith, Tinsmith, Blacksmith, etc. Despite the northerly wind forecast for our passage through these islands, we had to motor 10 nm before anchoring in the south of Goldsmith Island. Here we had a nice walk on the sandy beach, a swim and lunch, before the northerly wind kicked in.
Goldsmith Island – Southern Bay.
A close up of the crystal clear water of Southern Bay.
The message from the kids were crystal clear – don’t wear Budgie Smugglers! Why?
We had a quick 12 nm passage to Brampton Island in the afternoon, where we anchored in Dinghy Bay. The next morning we attempted to get on the circular island trail, but it was so overgrown that by the time we got to Oak Bay it was like participating in “Survivor”. We gave up after an hour, “Bundu” bashed back to Dinghy Bay, covered in burrs, nettles and blackjacks. It took a while to get these weeds off our clothes and we got back to the boat to treat all the scratches and sandfly bites with Tiger Balm.
Dinghy Bay – Brampton Island.
An overgrown sign that says: Finding your way – which way now? How appropriate!
Oak Bay – overgrown with rocks.
Ego’s deflated, we set sail at 9:45 and had a good sail down to Keswick Island where we anchored in Basil’s Bay. The northerly wind was now pumping at 18 knots, so rather than go ashore for a walk on the lovely beach and watch the boat drag it’s anchor from ashore, we decided to stay put, do some reading and scratch our sandfly bites.
The passage between Keswick and St Bees Islands.
We were now at the most southerly Whitsunday Islands, so this will be the last post on this region. Tomorrow we have a long 45 nm downwind sail to Digby Island, where we hope to get some shelter in the lee of the island. We will report again from further south along the beautiful Queensland coast. Cheers for now.
Click on images to enlarge.
While waiting for the watermaker to be serviced, we also had to send our Fusion radio/hi-fi head unit back to Sydney, after the LCD display faded away. Getting the replacement unit back to Airlie would take about the same time, so on Wednesday the 15th September we set sail for Nara inlet on Hook Island in a brisk 25 knot S-E wind. We were hoping for a week of less wind to explore again, some of our favourite anchorages.
The next day was spot on in terms of our expectations, with the water in Nara inlet as smooth as a mirror. We set out early to walk up to the cave on the hill, where paintings of the Ngaro aboriginal people of this area can be seen. After a relaxed breakfast we motored to the next bay, Macona inlet before crossing from Hook Island to Whitsunday Island, where we anchored in May’s Bay.
Starting up the hill.
View down to the inlet.
The following day it was a short hop to Sawmill Bay on the western shores of Whitsunday Island – so named because of a sawmill that operated here in the 1800’s.
Soon after we anchored, we tackled the hike from Sawmill beach up to Whitsunday Peak, well worth the effort as the views from the top are spectacular.
Water stop on the way up.
View from the peak over Cid island.
Looking south to Hamilton island.
Looking north to Hook island.
The 5 hour round trip resulted in a surprise on our return to the beach, where the substantial 3m tide had left our dinghy high and dry, far from the water. It took some effort with two inflatable fenders, to drag the dinghy down to the water. We were cursing anew the Italian who had stolen our previous dinghy with its excellent fold down wheels in Naples. We will have to buy new wheels.
WTF? – it’s a long way to the water.
After sundowners on the beach with some friends, we returned to our boat for an early night, being quite tired. Not so – a 3 storey high motor cruiser with the quaint name “Exocet Strike” anchored near us (Exocet is an American war missile). The 3m wide television was pumping out music, full blast, day and night, while the happy blinged up people on board uttered shrieks of delight at the powerful underwater blue lights, creating a 10m wide Persil blue halo around the boat. The purpose of these lights weren’t apparent, save to say that sailors have anchor lights, and these lights are known as wanker lights. To keep these systems running, the engine was harmonising with the shrieks.
To quote David Colfelt in his delightful cruising guide “100 Magic Miles of the Great Barrier Reef” under the heading Anchoring etiquette: “And for those who may love the comforts of home wherever they are, including microwave ovens, TV’s, dishwashers, etc – all of which require the yacht’s engine to be run constantly to keep the batteries from being sucked inside out – spare a thought for those who have come to the Whitsundays to enjoy a bit of wilderness, away from the constant reminders of urban civilisation.”
Rainforest walk to Dugong beach.
Two days later we did the short rainforest walk from Sawmill Beach to Dugong Beach and afterwards we dinghied to Joe’s Beach for mobile phone reception to phone our daughter Karen on her 33rd birthday.
Secret athlete spotted at Dugong beach.
Some big lizards in this area.
A slow sail took us northwest to Stonehaven Bay to pick up a Parks mooring. Four boats got together on “Freedom” of Rick and Elin Power to celebrate Rick’s 65th birthday. Rick is another one of the Japie boat people (6 months in Oz and he bought a boat). The wind forecasts showed a strong south easterly coming at midnight on the 21st, so we sailed back to Airlie Beach to anchor in the lee of the marina wall. Just as well, as the wind in the islands reached 48 knots – our maximum was 28 knots.
The next week was quite busy socially and sorting out boat issues. We made contact with Peter Varley and his partner Tanya, who until recently owned the same model Jeanneau SO439 as ours. This led to a few liquid occasions on Esprit, Sorrento’s and at their apartment overlooking the marina.
Old friends Kerry and Sue who we last saw in Greece on their Lightwave 45 cat, showed up in Airlie Beach on their friend Peter’s Lightwave 45 cat, as their boat “Billaroo” is currently in the south of Spain. More celebrations called for! We also had Rick and Elin on Freedom for dinner.
Peter, Sue, Dirk, Annie & Kerry.
Next up, we took the opportunity of low winds to sail out to the islands – first night at Blue Pearl Bay on the West side of Hayman Island. On the way, Annie lost a big Spanish Mackerel, while bringing it on board, but soon afterwards landed two decent size Bluefin tuna.
Tuna no. 1
Blue Pearl Bay
Tuna no. 2
The freezer is now full, so I will try and stop her from fishing. We had a pleasant 30 nm sail out to Hook Reef and then we anchored in Bait Reef, where we snorkelled a bit.
Bait Reef – 30 nm out to sea – the back of beyond.
Cyclone Debbie which hit this part of the coast soon after we had been here six years ago, had devastated the coral reefs and we were disappointed at the nominal re-growth of the coral to date and consequently, the lack of fish. We, family and friends who had dived here back then, probably saw the reefs at its best. Hopefully it will recover again in another five years.
Sunset at Bait Reef.
It was a pleasant sail from Bait Reef to Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island in a 11-12 knot N-W wind. We picked up a Parks buoy in Tongue Bay and did the walk up to the scenic lookout above Hill inlet.
New steps at Tongue Bay, constructed after hurricane Debbie.
Welcome information board.
View south along Whitehaven Beach from the lookout.
Secret athlete and his coach, spotted again above Hill Inlet.
Pretty Annie completes the picture.
A light breeze allowed us to sail the 5km length of Whitehaven Beach, before going through the narrow Solway Passage against the tide, and then anchor and spend the night at Turtle Bay.
Sailing along Whitehaven Beach.
The following day we sailed through Fitzalan Passage between Hamilton and Whitsunday Islands, back to Airlie Beach through the “Unsafe Passage” between North and South Molle islands.
Cheers for now!
Before I write about Airlie Beach, I have to apologise to those followers of our blog, who haven’t received our last two posts. I built this website on the cheap six years ago and didn’t realise the content would eventually exceed the capacity of the shared server I used. Enter Danny Longhurst from “Siteshack” (he is good!), the website developer for our business, before our retirement.
Danny explained we needed to get our own server, which would increase the speed with which you can look at this website and would also have adequate capacity for our future posts (the next 20 years?). I also asked him to select a new crisper theme and to design us a new homepage. Your email notifications about new published posts will also be in a new Mailpoet format. So here it is, save for a bit of fine-tuning, for you to read:
Goodbye Shag Islet.
On Monday morning the 30th August 2021 we said our goodbyes at Shag Islet and motored through the Gloucester Passage to Airlie Beach, 20nm to the South. Airlie Beach is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands. We were quite tired after 4 days at Shaggers and after anchoring outside the Coral Sea Marina with about 80 other boats, we hit the sack early, vowing not to touch the turps again for at least a day.
The history of the Whitsunday name.
Our anchorage outside Coral Coast Marina, Airlie Beach.
Just as well we left on Monday, because the weather turned on Tuesday with gusting S-E winds and bucketing down with rain. We spent the day inside and caught up with admin and writing a post for our blog. Wednesday dawned overcast with fresh winds, but we managed to get the jib down after getting flogged by the sail. We took the sail ashore to the sailmaker for a complete restitching of all the seams between the sail panels.
The Coral Coast Marina on an overcast day.
We bumped into Brian Oldfield on the jetty, who invited us to join him and some friends at the Sorrento Bar on the Quay for late afternoon drinks and pizzas. But first we had to walk to Woolies and the bottle shop for supplies and then take it out to the boat. We met quite a number of new faces at Sorrento’s while enjoying very tasty pizzas on special – two for the price of one. An early night was to follow, again!
Couldn’t resist this beaut old Mustang on the way to Woolies.
In the meantime, Michelle informed us, she had bought a camper van to be more mobile during the Covid-19 pandemic. She is busy doing a contract for the UN in India and works online on her projects from 11am to 7pm, Sydney time. As long as she has good internet connections she can be anywhere in NSW. She has also recently had an arthroscopy on her knee and has recovered well enough to be surfing and cycling before work each day.
Michelle’s home and office van.
Feeding an orphaned kangaroo Joey.
Our daughters, Karen and Michelle on a wine tour in the Hunter valley.
Michelle cycling again, after her knee op.
Airlie Beach, like Cairns, depends on tourism and yachting for its economic well-being and therefore also goes to great lengths to make their town attractive and tourist friendly. We used this anchorage as a base for stocking up with food, drinks and essentials for the boat during the next 10 days. They have an excellent and cheap bus service which takes you all over town and adjoining Cannonvale for 2 hours at $1.90/person on your seniors card.
Airlie Beach waterfront.
Public sculpture of sorts.
I like the provenance of this beachfront seat.
Property prices here are also low compared to Sydney (around $500,000 for a 2 bedroom waterfront apartment), but the town does get hit by the occasional cyclone. This makes investment in property here a bit risky, with high property insurance premiums.
Cyclone Debbie five years ago, didn’t take any lives, but caused extensive damage.
Nevertheless the rental returns are better than Sydney, making us reconsider our rental property strategy in Sydney, to maybe re-investing in Queensland. With Covid-19 limitations, Aussies may just be considering holidays at home, particularly in tropical Northern Queensland.
One of these waterfront 3-bedroom apartments, with rooftop BBQ area, for sale at $800,000.
Slowly, but surely, we attended to our maintenance list while at anchor, giving us more time to enjoy Airlie Beach and relax.
Airlie and Cannonvale from the Honeyeater trail.
Annie at the Honeyeater trail lookout.
Annie set about getting quotes for our boat and public liability insurance along the Australian coast. What a rip-off – the quotes were double that of sailing from the Caribbean, across the Pacific Ocean to Australia. She eventually got an annual premium quote from Pantaenius Insurance, nearer the 1% of boat value norm, subject to a rigging inspection. The rigging inspection we had done in Tahiti was accepted.
A talented youngster playing at the Saturday markets.
Mobile coffee shop.
I had to take a photo of this immaculate Kenworth rig.
Life goes on as normal.
Airlie Beach has zero Covid-19 cases, so here life goes on as normal with no lockdowns or masks and with open air music events. On Saturday the 11th September we had a great time at the Airlie Beach Hotel to listen to a Cold Chisel revival band. The lead singer did a good Jimmy Barnes impersonation.
The bartenders could hardly keep up.
It reminded us of our epic music evenings at the Dee Why RSL – very much schoolies for older people! After two bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, we left elated and bought some chicken falafels on the way back to the boat. On Sunday it was back to reality and we took the opportunity of a windless day to hoist the mainsail at anchor and re-stitch by hand, 5 small seams and fit 2 new sliders.
Apologies for the average sound on “Keh Sanh” (Last train out of Sydney) and “Working class man” `- it’s the best my iPhone can do.
Annie also went up the mast to check, anti-rust treat the main stays and lubricate the mainsail track. Matt, the technician from Rainman watermakers came out to fit a new impeller on the lifting pump, but it turned out the seals in the high pressure pump were leaking, so he had to take the unit back to the workshop to fit new seals. Getting the parts from Sydney and doing the work would take about a week.
Annie up the p – mast.
Cheers for now – we will report on the Whitsunday Islands soon.
Anchored in Welcome Bay, Fitzroy Island.
On the 18th August 2021, it was a 17nm motor sail, from Cairns to Fitzroy Island where we picked up a Parks Board mooring in Welcome Bay. We spent two nights here and had Mike and Anita McMahon from “Curried Oats” over for drinks. We got some exercise by doing the walks to Nudey Beach, Secret Garden and the lighthouse. We left Fitzroy at 1:00am on the second night as the weather forecast indicated relatively light South-easterly winds.
Here’s the map, now let’s do the walks.
The path to Nudey Beach and Secret Garden.
View from the top of the hill near the lighthouse.
Route Cairns to Airlie Beach.
Mourilyan harbour with its sugar loading wharf was a welcome anchorage at 11:30 after working against the wind and current for 37nm. We set off again at 17:30 for the next leg to Cardwell at the North entrance to the Hinchinbrook Island channel. We anchored opposite Cardwell at Hecate Point at 02:30 the next morning. You may well ask, why these odd hours of sailing?
Anchored off Mourilyan Harbour sugar loading wharf.
Hecate Point anchorage opposite Cardwell.
At this time of the year, the prevailing South-easterly winds off the North Queensland coast is on the nose, so going south is hard work and you have to try and take advantage of any change in wind direction or lessening of the wind strength. We motored South through the Hinchinbrook channel that separates the big Hinchinbrook Island from the mainland in the wind and rain. Fortunately we had seen the magnificent scenery before, in sunny conditions.
Lucinda sugar conveyor.
The town of Lucinda is at the Southern end of the channel, with its sugar loading conveyor stretching 5km into the bay. We anchored off the derelict molasses wharf which was damaged by a freighter years ago and afterwards hammered by Cyclone Yasi. The bay has a shifting sand bottom and you have to navigate the shallows carefully. We got stuck here on a sandbar for 3 hours waiting for a rising tide, 5 years ago. Very embarrassing!
Sugar loading jetty 5km out in the bay.
It was a 62nm, 12 hour motor sail to Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island the following day, where we anchored in the bay at 8:15pm. There were about 30 other boats of all descriptions at anchor, most of which had just completed the “Beyond the Barrier” rally. The following day we had a great beach walk followed by beers at the Great Northern Brewery Pub.
Annie at the wheel to Magnetic Island.
Beating towards Magnetic Island late afternoon.
Next day – looking out over Horseshoe bay.
Walk around the bay.
As expected in Australia – shiny clean free gas BBQ’s along the beachfront.
Lovely old converted fishing boat in the bay.
Also, this metallic brown gin palace with mini-me tender in matching glittershit paint.
Aargh! Why you should appoint a naval architect to design your boat.
After the second night in this lovely bay, we woke up to a thick browny red layer of dead plankton on the water, so we set off at 8:30am to motor sail the 37nm past Cape Cleveland, to Cape Bowling Green. Our going was so good though, with flat seas and constant 10 knot winds, we decided to carry on to Cape Upstart, a further 38nm away, where we anchored at 8:15 pm.
Sailing past Cape Bowling Green lighthouse.
Leaving Cape Upstart early.
After a bumpy night due to an unforeseen southerly, which left us exposed to the swells, we left Cape Upstart early, for a 38nm crossing of Abbott Bay to Queens Bay, north of Bowen. For the first time, just off the Abbott Point coal loader, we heard a Mayday call on VHF 16. Kaylene, a 31ft yacht with a solo sailor onboard, had hit a reef and she was taking on water and was sinking.
Abbott Point coal loader.
Our position, 25nm away to the South, was too far away to assist. On VHF 16 we followed the impeccable management of the emergency by Abbott Point Coastal Rescue as they contacted two cargo vessels in the coal loader roadstead to assist the sailor, which they reluctantly couldn’t, as their RIBS were too small for the weather conditions. Abbott Point then dispatched the Bowen Rescue vessel and a helicopter from Townsville to the position recorded by the sailor’s EPIRB – they were on the scene in 40 minutes.
The outcome was good, as the sailor didn’t have to abandon ship – the Bowen Rescue vessel had pumps aboard to stem the water inflow to the vessel and took Kaylene in tow, back to Townsville. We had often thought of this scenario in the middle of an ocean, with no land closer than two weeks away and it was comforting to know that we were back in a part of the world where help was within a reasonable distance.
Queens Bay anchorage north of Bowen.
Queens Bay was a pretty and sheltered anchorage for the night and it was a short 12nm or 2 hour motor sail across the bay to the Shag Islet anchorage, which we had been working towards for the last week, for a good party. We anchored off the beach with about 60 yachts, after a 300nm journey from Cairns to Shag Islet. A gin and tonic at lunchtime was in order, before we joined the Shaggers at the Cape Gloucester Resort for a meet and greet.
Shag Islet in Gloucester passage.
The first people we bumped into were David and Kay Norman on AFRICA (Another F*cking Race I Can’t Afford), who said: “You were here five years ago and told us of the new 2 litre wine casks!” That set the tone for the rest of the afternoon, which was spent meeting a bunch of new cruisers.
A well deserved Gin and Tonic.
For the record, David’s card reads:” Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming WOW! WHAT A RIDE!” We concur.
Shag Islet anchorage.
The next day was the Shaggers get together on Shag Islet. Again, a pleasant time was had meeting more people, who had one thing in common – their love of cruising the oceans. Saturday was a lay day as the reggae party on Saturday evening had been cancelled due to a double booking for a wedding at the resort. Ironically, the wedding reception had to be cancelled due to the Covid lockdown, so the Shaggers carried on partying at the resort.
Coconut Radio blasting forth from under the little gazebo.
Part of the crowd on Shag Islet.
Back in Tahiti, our friends the Bellamy’s had told us about the Oldfield’s from their yacht club in Western Australia who were cruising in NSW. Saturday morning on our way to the beach for our morning walk: Voila! A Jeanneau 42 called Zofia, with Brian and Eva Oldfield aboard, inviting us in for a coffee. We returned the compliment by inviting them for sundowners in the evening.
Morning beach walks.
View out into the bay.
Annie catching some sun between events.
It had been a long and liquid evening with much laughter due to the Oldfield’s sparkling repartee, so late Sunday morning, after a handful of Panadol’s, we set off to the final party and charity auction for prostate cancer, the SICYC Pirate’s Party. The reason for the existence of the Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club and its more than 7,500 members in 14 countries, is to raise awareness of and raise funds for prostate cancer research, for which more than $650,000 had been raised over the last 9 years. (And to have fun while doing this!)
Pirate party crowd.
Well dressed pirates.
Dirk & Annie with Jan and Richard McCarthy, Shaggers from London.
Monday morning the 30th August at 11:00 we said our goodbyes and motored through the Gloucester Passage on our way to Airlie Beach, the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, on which we will report later. Cheers for now!
Celebrating our Pacific crossing with a bottle of bubbly in our hotel room.
Fourteen days quarantine in the Pacific Hotel in Cairns was compulsory for us after our arrival in Far Northern Queensland. We enjoyed the stay and the meals from the 28th July to the 10th August 2021, but not the cost of $4,130 plus $1,894 for a marina berth while we were in quarantine.
Catching up with emails.
The hotel deserves compliments for their meals which were excellent, albeit a tad too much, considering that we could not exercise to shake off the results. We had fast internet access and a balcony that we could go out on, with a view of the city and the sea. The hotel arranged live music by Craig Phelps on the pool deck with free pizzas delivered to our rooms on Friday nights, which we enjoyed on our balconies.
Music on the pool deck.
Craig Phelps playing Jack Johnson.
Pizzas with Craig singing in the background.
Lunch – salads and chicken mayonnaise sangers.
During our stay we had three PCR swab tests with negative results during the 14 days, before we could leave the hotel. Upon discharge, we met with a Department of Agriculture Biosecurity official to have our boat checked for timber bug infestations. For this we had to pay a charge of $310.
Annie’s morning exercise routine.
Another curved ball was a Customs law dating back to 1901, which required us to re-import our boat after more than a year abroad. We didn’t know that we actually exported the boat in the first instance. The cost of a Customs broker was another $480, to have the boat released from Customs.
Cairns Marina with our neighbours, John and Raewyn Lemberg.
We were haemorrhaging money, as there were also numerous repairs to be done after the long ocean crossing: torn jib sail, torn spray dodger, the forward toilet mounting screws stripped, requiring the replacement of the toilet, etc. We set about doing this as soon as we got back to the boat.
Two days before our release from 14 days quarantine in the Pacific Hotel and after our third negative Covid PCR test, we were advised that Cairns will go into lockdown for three days because of a new Covid-19 case in Cairns. This meant getting back to our boat, but not being able to go anywhere for a day.
Walk along the foreshore.
We then spent a pleasant week in beautiful Cairns enjoying the tropical Far North Queensland parks and gardens. The council goes to great lengths to make the town tourist friendly with well planned and clean facilities. The tropical trees were different to the ubiquitous eucalyptus trees of NSW.
Tropical trees, not seen in Sydney.
Excellent BBQ facilities in the parks.
Our mobile SIM cards for Australia expired during our absence, so we had to get new ones and I had to get my iPhone repaired due to water ingress. We hired a car and stocked up with food, booze and gas before we departed on the 18th August, after filling Esprit up with diesel.
Statue in front of the RSL.
Shallow pool for the kids.
More tropical trees.
We will now motor sail the 17 nm to Fitzroy Island south-east of Cairns, to tie up to a Parks Board mooring and will report on our journey south, as we progress. Cheers for now!
Sailing out of Maupiti.
We set sail from Maupiti, French Polynesia on Monday 28 th June 2021, to sail directly to Cairns, Australia. We had almost three months in this lovely Pacific nation which gave us the opportunity to explore all the major places. Some cruisers hang around here much longer, because they love the culture, or, because of Covid-19, they cannot continue west to the other Pacific nations. These boats sail up and down French Polynesia like the mythical Flying Dutchman. Australia and New Zealand are also closed to international sailors and only allow their citizens back.
Our last view of land for 28 days.
In a previous post I referred to some problems with officialdom and now that we have left French Polynesia, we can tell you more about this: Despite us hoping to spend a year cruising the numerous Pacific Islands, between Panama and Australia, only French Polynesia and Fiji were open in terms of Covid-19 protocols. Back in December 2020, Annie submitted an application to the French Polynesian authorities for a standard 3 month visa to cruise these islands. By the end of January 2021 she had not had a reply, despite cruising friends who had applied during January, receiving their approvals.
She again emailed them for the visa, but some official had filed and forgotten our application. In the first week of February a new case of Covid had arrived in FP by plane from the USA, so the authorities immediately closed the FP borders. On further enquiry from Annie we were advised that our application to enter FP had been refused. We now had to leave Panama for Australia, facing a hell of a long passage going home, with nowhere to stop but in Fiji!
Annie contacted an agent in Nuku Hiva, FP who said: “For US150 I will sort this out”. A week later we were advised that we could enter FP for 4 days to rest and replenish our water, fuel and provisions! Arriving in Nuku Hiva, the agent took us to the Gendarmerie to have our passports stamped and other French documents signed. It turns out the Gendarmerie passport stamp is valid for the standard 90 day stay in FP.
In five years of cruising, we found that the more layers of bureaucracy (and the French have many), the easier it is to find a solution to these ad hoc bureaucratic decisions. There is a vast difference between arrivals by plane from Covid hotspots and sailors who are effectively in quarantine for 27 days, sailing from Panama to FP, without a living soul in sight.
After four days, we set sail for the Tuamotus. Bad luck provided the solution, when a stay in Esprit’s mast rigging started unwinding. We were now forced to stop in Tahiti for repairs and time marched on – four days turned into four weeks. Not a sign of patrol boats or officials – only friendly locals happy to welcome us. We kept a low profile and had the balance of our 90 day visas to see the rest of the Society Islands, which was a wonderful experience.
Esprit’s track from Maupiti to Cairns.
Now, we are back to take two: Pacific crossing from Maupiti, FP to Cairns, Straya. As the crow flies, it is 3,600 nm (6,667 km) for this leg, but in reality it will be longer, as the boat sails. For example, in take one: Panama to Nuku Hiva, FP is 3,800 nm (7,038 km) as the crow flies, but as the boat sails, it was 4,028 nm (7,460 km).
Bob in Auckland advises us that this leg of the Pacific crossing may be more challenging due to the shifting SPCZ (South Pacific Convergence Zone). Also, as a result of high westerlies down in the roaring forties, a huge low (no wind) has settled below Samoa, directly on our route to Cairns. He suggests we take a northerly route above Samoa to avoid the low.
Low, south of Samoa.
This will be longer, but at least we won’t have to motor (or so we thought). To summarise: Days 1 to 5, we have wind from the North-east, but, with lots of wind and rain squalls and lightning around us. We know that lightning is not our friend, as one lightning strike to a yacht mast can toast the electronics. At the moment, there isn’t another yacht mast for hundreds of miles around us.
The clouds marching by.
The weather gods have also decided they will only send these squalls at night, as it delivers amusing mayhem, with lots of shouty shouties (to quote circumnavigators Wayne and Barry on SV Nauty Buoy). Say no more. Despite this, we clock up 710 nm, average 142 nm/day for the 5 days. Once we reach latitude 12 south, the rain abates and we continue west slowly from day 6, due to light winds. We started motoring on Sunday arvo day 6, as the low has now moved further north into our intended route. We take the sails down as they are slapping uselessly in the little wind that there is.
Sun rising in the east.
We end up motoring for 40 hours until Tuesday the 6 th July (Day 8), burning 80 litres of diesel. At 07:00 on day 8, a light 10 knot S-E kicks in, we hoist the sails and cut the engine – hallelujah! We are now directly north of American Samoa and the American navy and air force spot us on AIS. We get visited by both a warship and a plane, not once, but two days in a row – good on them!
Samoa with wind to the south, but zilch where we are.
We re-set our course to the south-west to head for the French Islands of Wallis and Futuna, 510 nm away. Short lived excitement – we sail for 95 nm and then have to motor again for 21 hours. Getting a bit worried about our diesel.
On Day 11 we get into the easterly wind and set the pole up to run downwind. With winds between 18 – 24 knots, we are flying with 3 reefs in the main and 30% of the jib. We sail 164 nm in the next 24 hours and pass Wallis Island.
At 03:00 am on Day 13, we cross the International Dateline at 180 degrees of longitude and miss one day as we sail into the Eastern longitudes. At 07:00 a 40 knot rainstorm hits us for an hour and everything on the boat is wet. We have 1,954 nm to go to Cairns. Days 14 to 17 have repetitive 18 – 22 knot SE winds with very unsettled 3 – 4 m seas and occasional rain squalls.
Vanuatu (previously New Hebrides) is ahead of us and on Day 18 we round this large group of islands to the North. We drop the sails behind the small uninhabited cluster of Rowa Islands for an hour, to run our water maker and fill the aft tank. The Coral Sea is ahead and we set our final course to Grafton Passage in the Great Barrier Reef and on to Cairns – still 1,150nm away.
The weather around Vanuatu.
The wind, rain and wave conditions are variable over the next 5 days, as we slowly reduced the distance to the North Queensland coast. At longitude 163E we encountered a squall line which stuffed us around and had us on our toes for 12 hours.
The bird life out at sea is fascinating – from big gulls to small pigeon sized birds, they manage to survive miles from nowhere, on what they can get from the waves. The night of Day 23 saw 7 blue face boobies settle on our solar panels for a rest and a free ride. I only discover them at 06:00 in the morning and managed to chase them away. They left a huge mess which took me nearly an hour to scrub off, so that we can harvest solar power again.
Day 28: Our last sunrise on this crossing.
Waypoint 2 came up outside the Great Barrier Reef on Day 28, Tuesday 27 July at 10:00 and from here we motored through the Grafton Passage in the reef for the long dredged approach channel into Cairns.
Approaching Cairns – Annie getting the fenders ready.
April 2017: Dirk’s 70th at the Prawn Star, just before we left Cairns on this trip.
We tied up at Cairns Marlin Marina on Tuesday the 27 July 2021 at 15:00, to complete our circumnavigation of the world – 5 years and 2 months since departing Sydney in 2016, having sailed 37,321 nautical miles x 1.852 = 69,118 km.
Esprit’s route around the world.
It may now be appropriate to quote the Chuck Berry song: “C’est la vie said the old folks, because you know, you never can tell”
Our second leg across the Pacific from Maupiti in French Polynesia to Cairns in Australia took us 28 days over a distance of 3,874 nm, (7,175 km), and was more difficult than the first leg from Panama to the Marquesas. You may ask why we made our landfall in Cairns instead of Brisbane which is a shorter distance? As we can’t visit the other Pacific nations due to Covid-19, we decided to again cruise in the Whitsunday Islands off northern Queensland and slowly make our way back to Sydney for the rest of the year.
The complete Pacific crossing.
Most importantly, The SICYC (Shag Island Cruising Yacht Club) annual rendezvous is on again at Gloucester Passage north of the Whitsundays, from the 26 to the 29 August 2021. This is party central for yachties, which we enjoyed 5 years ago. We made a lot of new friends then, who we hope to catch up with again. Watch our blog!
SICYC Rendezvous 2016.
Annie enjoying the SICYC Pirates party.
But first, we have to spend 14 days in quarantine in the Pacific hotel in Cairns at a cost of $4,130 for the two of us and leave our boat in the Marlin marina for that period at a cost of $1,895. A nice welcome home for Aussies due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At least we could come back, as other nationalities can’t get in.
Cairns – view from our hotel room.
We will keep you posted on Australia’s beautiful east coast as we sail back to Sydney, so stay with us. Cheers for now!
Annie and Dirk.